The Fifth Democracy in Africa? What Does It Mean?

According to the 2015 World Democracy Report, Ghana sits in fifth place in terms of African democracies. That’s a big leap; Ghana jumped an impressive 14 places from its spot in 2014. But what does it really mean?

In the minds of many, that means that only four countries are less corrupt than Ghana. Considering the norms of African politics since liberation, that should feel like an accomplishment. But, it’s still a long way from saying that there is no corruption in Ghana.

There is.

IMANI Ghana, a policy and education group, reports that some $3 billion (yes, that’s US dollars, not cedis) are lost to corruption every year. Think about that for a moment; $3 billion tax dollars find their way into the hands of the undeserving while there are hospitals in Ada West don’t have the supplies they need to resuscitate newborns.

$3 billion dollars would go a long way for the children of the country that, according to a Ghana Poverty and Inequality Report, are more likely to live in poverty than an equal amount of their adult counterparts. And, the situation is so dire that the United Kingdom is about to invest £14.8 million into combating the crisis. When you look at it like that, Ghana really does need every cent they can get.

Of course, corruption isn’t always about money.

But, when confessed criminals report they were paid by government officials to murder opponents (for a sum of GH¢25,000), a little lost money seems preferable to the other forms corruption can take.

And, let’s face it, the average person (Ghanaian or otherwise) has a difficult time understanding what $3 billion means. There are entrepreneurs for whom GH¢40 is too much to consider pre-paying for electricity. After all, it lasts about a third as long as it did a year or two ago now that electricity is 59 percent more than it was. Dumsor is no longer a government imposition as much as a personal budget decision. And Ghanaians have become adept at living without power.

However, access to services is on the rise. At least it is this year with elections on the horizon. Can Ghanaians really complain about $3 billion? The state of healthcare is certainly better than it is in Nigeria. The state of the economy is better than just about every African country. Political discontent is rife on the continent and the number of refugees, IDPs, and entirely avoidable deaths are on the rise. Ghana may have its problems, but the scale is nothing close to what’s found elsewhere. Surely $3 billion is a small amount to pay for the relative stability that Ghana embraces?

Then again, the government is issuing bonds for $131 million to raise the money needed to maintain the government and its services. You can fit a lot of $131 millions into $3 billion. What’s scary about that is that there are African governments that lose more money and have bigger secrets to hide.

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